Espreso. Global

First raindrops before major storm: We’re seeing early signs of significant political shift – Vitaly Portnikov

3 October, 2023 Tuesday

Vladimir Putin will try everything he can to extend the conflict with Ukraine, a country he hates, at least until the next U.S. presidential elections to see who the Kremlin will have to negotiate with


The American news outlet Politico highlights the existence of a confidential version of a strategy aimed at assisting Ukraine in its efforts to reform and defend itself against Russian aggression. This document, which seems to be in the possession of Politico's journalists, provides a more detailed and critical evaluation of the risks posed by corruption issues in Ukraine in the context of countering Russian aggression. Politico suggests that the report's authors express genuine concerns about corruption risks, not only in relation to supporting Ukraine against Russian aggression but also regarding the trust of Ukrainian society in its wartime leadership.

It's also stressed that continued Western support for Ukraine may hinge on the reduction of corruption within the country. Politico points out that the concerns in the document are more substantial and apparent than the usual statements made by representatives of the U.S. Presidential administration regarding corruption risks. This sets the classified report from the U.S. Department of State apart from the publicly available report that provides recommendations for reforms, which the Ukrainian leadership is already familiar with. The classified report has also become accessible to the media.

This is an important document that underscores how the situation regarding assistance to Ukraine evolves over time, particularly as the crisis related to the Ukrainian-Russian war deepens. This is happening alongside the realization that the war is becoming prolonged, and Russian President Vladimir Putin shows no intention of ending it.

The war in Ukraine, which has been ongoing and shows no signs of ending soon, is not just Ukraine's problem. It's also a concern for Ukraine's allies, like Western countries. They understand that as the war continues, it will require them to spend a lot of money. This might lead some European and American politicians to argue for reducing aid to Ukraine. They'll argue that their own countries have more pressing issues related to their own safety and survival.

This trend is visible in the United States, especially among members of the Republican Party. Donald Trump, a likely candidate for the presidency, openly talks about this. Many American politicians share this view because they hope to win the nomination if Trump faces legal challenges in his bid for the presidency against the current President, Joseph Biden.

We're also seeing this in Europe. In Slovakia, a political party led by the former prime minister, Robert Fico, won the parliamentary elections. Fico believes Slovakia should stop helping Ukraine because Slovaks have their own significant problems to deal with, which he thinks should take precedence over assisting Ukraine.

A few months ago, comparing the situation in one's own country to a war-torn nation might have seemed controversial to many Europeans. However, nowadays, more European politicians are discussing the challenges faced by their fellow citizens. These politicians are pondering whether, if the Russian-Ukrainian war persists for not just a couple of years but five or ten, the United States and European countries will need to allocate billions of dollars to support Ukraine's economy and assist its Armed Forces in an ongoing standoff with Russia.

In this context, Ukraine's strategic development program, even if not publicly disclosed, outlines several potential solutions to this dire situation. One primary approach involves demonstrating to those who are hesitant about providing aid to Ukraine that the U.S. administration is diligently working to combat corruption within Ukraine. This effort aims to encourage Ukrainian leadership and society to take anti-corruption measures and ensure that the funds from American and European taxpayers are monitored closely, preventing them from disappearing into the depths of Ukrainian corruption.

The second option involves finding a way to freeze the conflict. This would be beneficial not for Ukraine but for the West. It aims to reduce the intense standoff with Russia even before Western leaders who are willing to negotiate with Vladimir Putin take office. Politicians like Donald Trump, for instance, have shown a willingness to make compromises with Putin in their political activities. If Trump were to become the President in 2025, he might adopt this approach to resolve the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

Therefore, these anti-corruption plans address multiple challenges simultaneously. They aim to provide ongoing support to Ukraine during the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian conflict, which is not a short-term issue but a long-lasting one. Accordingly, it's crucial to find ways to de-escalate the conflict.

However, it's important to be realistic. I believe that the Russian President is unlikely to make concessions to his adversaries. He may do everything possible to prolong the conflict with Ukraine, which he hates, at least until the U.S. presidential elections. Putin wants to assess whether he can negotiate a resolution with either Joseph Biden or Donald Trump. Alternatively, it might not involve agreements but rather finding ways to create instability not only in Ukraine but also in the United States. We can observe the current state of the American election campaign, and the potential for destabilization is quite evident.

Nothing significant has started yet. We're seeing only the initial signs of a potential major political crisis, and Vladimir Putin is well aware of this.

So, when we talk about Western actions, it's not just about responding to Russia's aggressive intentions. It's also about addressing corruption issues in a country that has suffered from Russian aggression. This raises the question: Is it genuinely about corruption, or are we ultimately trying to negotiate with Moscow? In the realm of international law, we should consider restoring the territorial integrity of the country that has been a victim of aggression. Even if that country is significantly corrupt and authoritarian, the focus should be on upholding international law. For instance, when the USA restored Kuwait's territorial integrity and independence, it wasn't because Kuwait was a shining example of democracy. Therefore, attempts to link the restoration of international law with the opportunity to reform Ukraine are likely to fail.

Reforms in Ukraine are crucial, but they should not be confused with the need to counter Russian ambitions. Without a clear response from the civilized world, these ambitions could lead to a major conflict for control over the entire post-Soviet region. Ultimately, these ambitions could escalate into the much-feared Third World War in the West. This is a scenario that many are anxious about and might have to prepare for.


About the author. Vitaly Portnikov, journalist, Shevchenko National Prize laureate 

The editors do not always share the opinions expressed by the blog authors.

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